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2003.07.02 3:42 p.m.

When the stomach is full, it is easy to talk of fasting.

 -Saint Jerome  

Previously in Xenology: Emily was a ninja.

Weighty Matters
breaking the fast  
Finally eating
Clueless is on the television and Emily is curled up in contentment next to me. No, this does not owe to my skills in the boudoir; it is the thanks of Wendy's. After the weigh in, a purgatorial event chronicled lovingly below, she felt the need to glut herself on fifteen dollars worth of fast food and preferred a place that would give her both chocolate ice cream and a baked potato in one meal. She consumed an entire Biggie sized diet soda (for she is still Emily and soda is not proper without a lack of corn syrup) in the hundred-yard walk back to the hotel. I was shocked to see her throw out the cup and far more so when she demonstrated that it had been sucked dry.
Emily was a few pounds under the weight she gave on the form, so she is going to be competing at Nationals. It is possible that she was over the hoped for weight when we got into the queue for the weigh in, but she did nervously bounce about in it for over four hours. The organizers couldn't deduce that having only four scales - incidentally in the same room as all of the vendors cloyingly trying to hawk their wares - for upwards of 2000 competitors was as impractical as it was inefficient. So we stood.
When awoken this morning, I expected to only be waiting an hour, so I darted from the hotel lacking my placental backpack. I had no snacks, no books, nothing on which I could write in much depth. I bought a copy of the Wall Street Journal and absorbed nearly all of it in an hour, purposely overlooking anything in print the size of a flea or bearing the suggestion that it was dealing with the domain of sports. After sharing the few tidbits I deemed worthy of voicing, Emily procured me a free copy of the hotel's USA Today, which was absorbed far quicker though with regrettably more fervently. There was an article about the racial and sexual disparity in the teaching profession. And cigarette laws in New York. I am very lame, of this you can be sure.
After seeing if Emily's lips were edible through controlled contact with my own, she informed me that whenever I kissed her, we received many dirty looks from persons surrounding. Rather their problem for being so nosy as to spy on a small show of affection, I thought. According to her, however, this is because the world at large (at least in Tennessee) wholly equates long hair with girls thus Emily and I are horrible, horrible dykes trying to corrupt the youth of America with our sinful osculation rather than god sanctioned heteros trying to engage in experimental cannibalism the way the Good Lord Above intended.
Emily, deeply pitying me at hour three, forced a fiver into my fists and told me to slake my hunger at the hotel's restaurant of semiswank. It felt oddly empowering to be standing in a line for something that directly benefited me and attending to my grumbling stomach would take me away from rererereading USA Today to see if their was a cipher by which one could decode the smaller articles.
While I waited, I eavesdropped on conversations being held in accents that suggested barbecue sauce and straw hats. An older woman asked me from whence I hailed. She seemed surprised that I said New York, hopefully meaning that my accent is vague enough that others do not presume to assign me a statutory label. Or, perhaps, it is just a hell of a long way to travel just to see people kick other people. She identified herself as a Native Floridian, which would account for her infirmity of age. Only affiliation with the Unholy Mouse forestalls instant geriatrification. I nodded at her shameful confession of origin and tried to determine what others were sharing about the competition to come because I am a good little spy for Team M. The maitre de asked how many I was and I signaled that I was quite single. The Floridian gasped at this and asked if I would like to have lunch with her and her son to conserve on seats. Well, frankly, no. I would honestly prefer to dine on my own and mull over the names of every character in the Ducktalesverse. (The triceratops was named Tootsie but rarely crossdressed. The evil Darkwing Duck bore the title Negaduck.) Nevertheless, I wasn't quite as tactless as to refuse a stranger asking for my company, even if it was merely for the important cause of seat conservation. It made me feel vaguely Southern to be depending on the kindness of strangers.
The moment I sat and ordered my diet cola, she made quite certain that the sweet Southern belle waitress was well aware that she was not with me and did not, in fact, know me. The implication was that she did not willingly associate with my kith and was merely taking pity on my wayward soul. Thus, I felt immensely comfortable and mentally checked myself for exposed occult jewelry to account for this sudden reaction. Nope, I was clean, just longhaired. Melissa warned me that people would know I was Pagan no matter how conservatively a chose to dress.
She spoke to me of the weather and her ninja-like orange belt daughter. I tittered at her lavishing of her absent daughter given that my black belt girlfriend could kill everyone in this eatery without breaking a sweat. Actually, given that Emily hadn't eaten solid food in several days, she might tip over before she could execute an axe kick.
This awkward meal took about forty minutes while her eight-year-old grandson tried to impress me with the depth and breadth of his ADD. I smiled kindly and indulgently without seeming artificial, but I just wished to be rescued. My only respite came when the tanned waitress made clear that she did not feel long hair equated dyke and these breaks in the monotony were few and subtle. The Floridian worked on a word puzzled with her grandson and became a bit off-put when I demonstrated she had ordered her grandson to circle a giraffe spelled girfjpr and correctly spotted the actually word despite it being upside down and backward.
Emily is here with a few Tae Kwon Do people from a neighboring school to hers. I am glad that she has people within the realm of Korean Martial arts to support her, especially as I am nearly positive that the rules of this require her to have a registered coach to compete. I certainly like the leader of this group, Morita, save that he plays rather banal and vacuous country music in our rental car. However, this may have more to do with his student. I like far less Morita's student and Emily's coach Macchio, who is eighteen and who believes that he is divinely given unto the world to please the sexy ladies. He has made it clear in the past that he covets Emily, which is massively inappropriate but almost expected given his cockiness. After being rejected by Emily because he is an immature sexual predator and she has a lover who can master the adjective use of words beyond "cool," he decided to try his thick knuckled hands at another girl named Emily, but abandon her because her "tits weren't big enough." Quite the charmer, but I digress.
When Emily is in the presence of the Tae Kwon Do elite, I feel that I have no place. It is not that Emily or Morita purposely excludes me. In fact, Emily was shocked and apologetic when I explained how I felt. I just do not know what to say when they are discussing front snap kicks. Should the conversation divert into 19th century English poetry, I will be sure to pipe up. When I try to introduce a topic, it is as though I had not spoken. I am sure it is not a purposeful slight, what I say just doesn't seem to reach anyone's ears.

It's later now and I have summoned electrical life into Emily's refurbished laptop so that I may write more to you. She is quietly dozing on the Sleeping Bed to my right after having been lulled to unconsciousness my four Benedril and my stylized version of the first chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird. She has never read this book and feels it is only proper that she further her cultural literacy by accomplishing this task. It is certainly not the first book I would hand to some one seeking to better know contemporary literature, but I can't deny that it is important. However, I tend to think it should be read for different reasons than most. To me, it is a very tangible example of the evanescence of one's muse. Harper Lee wrote exactly one book. One. After she finished To Kill a Mockingbird, she felt completely unable to write. Ever again. The Muse had chosen to give this woman exactly one story to tell and she did it well, after which the Muse cooed, "Has been lovely, dear. Good work and all that, but I must be off. No, no. Don't get the door. I know where it is. Oh, no. Don't fret about how to find me. Really."
The room is a crisp fifty-odd degrees. Emily insists that it is both too warm and too cold and the bipartite solution to these disparate problems is to have the air conditioning cranked to eleven and be under every foreseeable blanket not currently serving as my magic carpet on the Bed of Other Purposes. I have to say, I don't precisely fault her logic and might be more inclined toward agreement were I sharing the bed with her. But the Muse has tinked my forehead as only she can do, so I will tell you stories.
We went to dinner with the members of what I can only guess will be Emily's "team" at this event. I met them in the lobby after growing disgusted with the current incarnation of the Man of Steel, who cannot manage to fend off an axe wielding alien without bleeding. Bleeding, I tell you. This is not complicated mythology. Superman is vulnerable to a green rock that tends to only appear when plot demands. Beyond that, he. does. not. bleed. You can shoot him in the head at a distance of two inches and he will not flinch. Nietzsche would be horrified at the ease with which Superman can be harmed in this latest cartoon. This is not merely a fictional character; this is the incarnate spirit of American machismo. He is a postmodern deity. Faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap vast conclusions in a single bound. Having such a socially loaded archetype be a bit of a ponce because it is more dramatic when he inevitable wins (even, you will note, against death itself) is cheating the fans out of the true meaning of the character. This is no more reasonable than to excise the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents from the history of Batman. It is the same as eschewing the mortality clause for Norse gods. This is prettying up Richard the Third because it is nicer to look at an actor who is standing up straight and smiling brightly when he seduces Anne over the corpse of her husband and his victim. This is certainly not just pedantic navel-gazing. It robs the soul from the symbol and cast the audience as twits who do not care for the meat as long as they can have something vaguely the color and shape of meat. Plus, it looks really very ridiculous when his leotard is Clorox clean in the next scene. Continuity, people.
In a room spurting from the lobby like a tumor, Emily and her team were practicing their forms. Macchio was lying on the floor and harassing a woman easily twice his age to help him release the tension in his muscles, evidently believing single entendres require physical demonstrations. It was Emily's turn to run through her form for Morita. I had forgotten the preciseness of her movements and the mastery over which she has her body. It was as watching a painter recreate a facsimile of a masterpiece in under a minute. Morita was rightly impressed with her, pointing out only a twist or turn that could use concerted refining when she is before the judges tomorrow.
After this was a young boy who used loud noises to camouflage clumsy movements, an opportunity Emily utilized to slip into something less comfortable before dinner.
"I really like that you find me sexy because I can do a martial art," she mused to me.
I smirked to her. "I am all about the kinesthetic intelligence. I think it is hella tight."
She bit her tongue at my purposely contrived use of "hella tight." It has become our shorthand for something that obviously deserves much more discussion, but is unlikely to receive it for the moment. "Yeah," she continued with a nervous but appreciative edge, "but no one else I have ever been with has."
"Ah, yes. That's because they are tools. It's all very simple."
We drove to dinner in the spittle of Tropical Depression Bill. The team was craving food that purported, to the amusement of Aussies, to be authentic fare from Down Under. I was still far too full from my meal with Diane the Friendly Floridian, but I knew better than to question two carloads of ravenous martial artists.
In the car, Macchio puffed his chest about sexual conquests and his terribly informed political opinion that he wishes Bill Clinton was never our president. Frankly, as he was underage for exactly all of the Clinton presidency and still feels the need to objectify other human being in relation to their usefulness in providing him physical pleasure, I am fairly sure regurgitated opinions based nothing like actual information are worth about as much as a scraped off bumper sticker reading "Charton Heston is my president." He bears an army issue haircut, like the clear cutting of all forests he likely supports. I would assume that he was being all he could be (a worm), save that he lacks both the maturity and defined muscles required in the armed forces. He has a nose that it too big for his face, which could have been an interesting quirk save that it makes the rest of his face seem all the more porcine. When compared against Morita, one would have to be nearly blind not to see that Macchio wishes nothing more than to be Morita. Morita's army issue hair is authentic and not merely present for appearances. His muscles are ropes with purpose. Morita has the contented look one expects to see in clichés of martial artists.
One settled into our Authentic Australian Seats by a leering wooden wallaby, Macchio and an older gentleman began making wholly unnuanced exaltations for the waitress to become a closer acquaintance. At least for about forty-five seconds including foreplay. Emily and I shared pained glances as Morita got in on their game, asking the waitress in the context of an order if he could take advantage of her. I loathe anyone who is less than polite to perfectly civil servers and not merely because they can have bodily fluids added to the recipe of any dish. She was politely declining their dated and trite come-ons but her anxiety with the situation was palpable. I think Morita laid off once he realized that this made her uncomfortable (she also may have missed his line, as it bordered on actually being subtle), but Macchio and the other gentleman held true to their predatorial nature and became more active once they smelled the hint of blood. Before we left the eatery, Macchio had convinced the ostensibly reluctant Morita to ask the waitress to escort him around town the following day, a plan that was upset when her young child greeted her with a flurry of excited "Mommy! Mommy!"
After this little encounter, all doubt in Emily's mind that Macchio is a complete dick was removed. However, this may be like vacuuming up three grains of rice. Unfortunately for all who dwell within this frigid room, it is Macchio and not Morita who will be coaching our tow-headed assassin. Generally, sexual harassers lack the ability to fight back against a first Dan black belt in Tae Kwon Do, but this is not the case with Macchio. Unless he discovers his latent homosexuality (which seems like a possibility, as I distrust the sexuality of anyone who feels the need to make it the center of their personality), he could prove to be troublesome. Of course, I am very good at throwing sharp rocks and hitting things with sticks.
Tomorrow, Emily is going to demonstrate her form for the judges. She tells me that she is ordinarily lacking in confidence about her form and certain that her sparring will be up to snuff. This time it is to be quite the opposite, though I may not be in attendance to see her form. She is awakening at 6:30AM to practice with Terry, another team member, before the event. Thus, it seems more likely that she will come back for me after the event is won.

Soon in Xenology: More weddings. Parties. Nationals. Winning. Witchcraft. Mantras.

last watched: Charlie's Angels
reading: Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century
listening: Leonard Cohen
wanting: Emily to kick Sharon Williams hard. (Emily idolized Sharon Williams.)
interesting thought: Emily really, honestly, could win. (And not merely because everyone else looked feeble in the line.)
moment of zen: Offending idiots.
someday I must: Have a pleasant dinner with a stranger.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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